Growing Ornamental vegetables and fruits
So far we have discussed some suitable vegetables for growing in an ornamental situation, some of which look quite decorative themselves, while others contrast with the flowers. However, there are many highly ornamental vegetables, as decorative as many border plants, which are also very suitable for the table. These will add colour to a mixed border of shrubs,and .
Probably the most striking ornamental vegetable is the variety of Swiss chard called Ruby Chard, or sometimes Rhubarb Chard, with brilliant red stems. The latter are cooked as a vegetable, rather like.
Thefamily does not really look right in an ornamental situation— unless, of course, you grow the coloured-leaved varieties. If you want to grow Brussels sprouts, for example, try the red variety, with deep purplish-red leaves.
There are also ornamental cabbages and kales with purple, white and red foliage. Although very attractive and much used by flower arrangers, they are, however, generally grown for their ornamental value rather than for the table, although, of course, the leaves are edible. The best plan is to try cooking them and decide whether or not you wish to eat them or merely use them for indoor decoration.
Curled, although plain green, has beautifully dense curly leaves. It makes a good contrast to brightly coloured flowers and is an invaluable winter vegetable.
If you have a moist, try some of the pink or red-stemmed varieties of celery which taste just as good as the white or green varieties.
If you have a square metre or two of ground to spare, grow a few plants of the more decorative varieties of bush. There is Golden Zucchini with golden-yellow fruits. Custard Yellow has flat, angular, yellow fruits and Custard White, as you might expect, produces white fruits. Custard are truly delicious, being more ‘meaty’ than most other marrows.
Pumpkins and squashes will need an area of ground of about 1 sq m (10 sq ft) but are excellent for the table, especially the colourful Hubbard Squash which has orange fruits.
In recent years many ornamental varieties of tomato have been introduced. Although they have unusual colours, shapes or sizes, the fruits are very good to eat. Tigerella has red and yellow striped fruits. Then there are the yellow tomatoes which are just as tasty as the red-fruited varieties, contrary to popular belief. There are also various other novelties like the tiny-fruited currant tomatoes, and pear and plum-shaped kinds, all adding a touch of the exotic to a border.
Even the garden pea has been bred for colour. For instance, there is the continental purple-podded pea. Theinside the pods are of the normal green colour. It is a tall pea, so grow it up a trellis, fence or wigwam of sticks.
The attractive scarlet flowers of the ordinary varieties of runner bean have already been mentioned. There is also a specially-bred decorative variety with pink blooms, called Sunset. It matures early and bears enormous crops. There are also climbingwith colourful pods, such as the variety Purple Podded, which has a very good flavour.
Not grow an ornamental crab apple whose fruits could be used to make jelly? There is John Downie with delicious red and orange fruits and Golden Hornet with large crops of bright yellow fruits. If you like grapes, especially for wine-making, grow the ornamental vine called Brant with its sweet, aromatic, dark purple fruits. Its decorative value lies in the large leaves which turn to shades of red and purple in the autumn before they fall.
Other than fruits such as red currants with bunches of luscious crimson fruits, the ordinary varieties of fruit are not especially decorative. If you want colour from fruits you will have to choose the ornamental varieties. For instance, why
There is no doubt that carefully chosen varieties of vegetables and fruits can add colour and interest to an ornamental bed or border. But can the flowers benefit the food crops in any way? To some extent they can, in that certain ornamental plants have the effect of deterringwhich may otherwise attack the vegetables. The combination of ornamental plants and food crops is gaining popularity among organic gardeners who do not wish to use chemicals for .
Marigolds,and annual asters are said to deter various pests from vegetables, mainly the sap-sucking kinds such as aphids. Nasturtiums planted between fruit trees and vegetables are also said to help in repelling woolly aphids.
Herbs such as coriander, anise and basil make good insect repellents if planted among vegetables.
Another worthwhile piece of advice is to growamong roses to keep the rose bushes free from aphids.
When contemplating a border for food crops and ornamental plants, you should try to avoid a haphazard scheme. The vegetables, fruit and ornamentals need to be chosen with care and should be planted so that they contrast and harmonize with each other to give a pleasing overall picture.
Do not be tempted to ‘slot’ vegetables and fruit in a border wherever there happens to be a gap—the effect is rarely completely satisfying. It is advisable instead to plan a mixed border carefully—choose the ornamental plants you wish to grow and decide which vegetables and fruits make suitable companions.
The ‘framework’ of the border should consist of permanent plants like hardy shrubs, herbaceous plants and fruits. This should be planted first, leaving spaces of reasonable size in which to sow or plant the vegetables of your choice. Do not plant permanent subjects too close together—leave adequate space for cultivation: the sites for vegetables need to be dug and manured in the normal way if the crops are to do well. Too many trees and shrubs, for example, will cause problems with their roots when it comes to digging the vegetable patches.
Growing vegetables, fruit and ornamentals together is more economical of space than growing them separately. In a conventional vegetable garden, the crops are usually grown in rows, with paths between, but in a bed or border they are grown in informal groups, which uses far less space. Also, in the conventional vegetable garden, it is easy to sow longer rows than you really need.
If you have a, therefore, it is well worth considering the idea of abandoning the separate vegetable and fruit plots, and laying out as large a border or bed as possible, in which you will be able to grow far more plants.
If you do adopt this method, you will probably find that the garden as a whole looks more attractive. With a conventional plan, the vegetable plot can often be seen from all parts of the garden, as well as from the house; most people do not consider long rows of vegetables very attractive, no matter how neatly they are laid out, nor how well grown they are.
One final point that you should bear in mind has to do with crop rotation. It is advisable to rotate the different groups of vegetables in your border each year, always making sure that they have suitable neighbours. This will minimize the risk of a build-up ofin the soil, especially with brassicas, peas, beans, tomatoes and root vegetables.